Sunday, 8 June 2003
Distance 19 km
Duration 4 hours 20 minutes
Ascent 373 m, descent 383 m
Map 63 of the Top-100 series
Topo-guide (ref. 653) Sentier de Saint-Jacques de-Compostelle, Moissac/Condom/Roncevaux
As breakfast was included in the price of the room, we could not make an early start this morning. We were first into the breakfast room at 7:30, and almost last out. Never had a breakfast been so enjoyed.
We ate everything put in front of us – fresh bread, four croissants, cherry jam, marmalade and big pots of coffee and hot chocolate. When nothing remained, we reluctantly shouldered our packs and started out.
After the initial descent, the country was flat – it was getting flatter by the day. We crossed the Gers river, brown and unmoving under a colourless sky.
Presently it rained, but not for long, and we took refuge in an halle at the charming village of Marsolan.
On the bridge across the stream, the bitumen had disappeared under a layer of mud. Further on things got worse as the track rounded a hillside of young sunflowers. A tide of pale, gluey mud had rolled down, inundating the path and the crop.
Our boots were soon twice their normal size and weight, and we felt like monsters as we plodded laboriously along. At last we reached solid ground at the chapel of Abrin, and stopped to scrape our boots on a wall.
From here it was only an hour’s easy walking to la Romieu, across a series of shallow undulations. The first sight of la Romieu must have intimidated the travellers of the past, with its immense bulk rearing from the farmland. Up close it is just as impressive.
It was a major staging-post for pilgrims in the twelfth century, as it was the place where the way from Rocamadour met the way from Moissac. Nowadays many walkers go straight from Lectoure to Condom, omitting la Romieu completely.
The camping ground was a little past the village and was a very strange place.
Every single person, including the staff, was Dutch. There was a cafeteria providing Dutch food and Dutch television, and excellent Dutch showers. The only French element was the weather, and even that had turned Dutch – cool and cloudy.
In the evening we took our apéritifs outside the restaurant Le Cardinal, but then retreated to the warm interior to eat.
The meal began with an elaborate cold buffet, which we piled high on our plates. Then we had steak, as usual, and finished with a cherry tart.